Segment your e-mail lists for more effective campaigns

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Used successfully for years in the world of direct mail marketing, segmentation has become increasingly common in the e-mail world. Segmentation, the process of dividing your e-mail list into distinct groups of people based on attributes such as demographics or purchase patterns, takes time and effort. Sending targeted messages to groups of people who respond in similar ways, however, can produce dramatically improved results.

The more you match your messages and offers to your audience's needs and interests, the higher your conversion rates. You also gain competitive advantage, increase loyalty and customer satisfaction, and strengthen your firm's brand and image. Segmenting your e-mail list need not be difficult. You probably have most of the data you need. Before starting, make sure you develop distinct content for your groups. Segmenting is useless if you can't speak effectively to each group in a relevant way.

The first step involves dividing your entire e-mail list based on a single important attribute. A logical division exists between customers and prospects. Once a prospect becomes a customer, it's time for them to receive e-mails designed to nurture the relationship, allowing it to grow. It would certainly be disconcerting for a new customer to get an e-mail promoting a discounted product they had already purchased at a higher price. There are other ways to consider segmenting your e-mail list:

Product lines

Does your company offer a range of products?


Append SIC or NAIC industry codes to your e-mail database if you have company names.

Job function

Tailor your copy to reflect the interests and needs of specific job functions.

Online behavior

Gauge audience behavior and communicate appropriately. Anyone clicking on an e-mail link about a specific product could be sent e-mails about related items.


Consumers in one area may not care about content specific to another. Once your e-mail list is segmented, you will need to assign new contacts that come in. Give your audience a choice when they opt-in to your e-mail communications. Provide a list of interest areas (segments) on your registration form and let your audience check the ones they find relevant.

It's important to test how well your segments perform. If you don't see an uplift in conversion rates for one segment, consider re-arranging the groups. With e-mail, you can quickly discover how well segmentation works. Make changes as necessary to keep up the momentum of sending relevant e-mails to your customers and prospects.

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